West New York Public Safety Commissioner Gabriel Rodriguez announced new plans to have more cops walking the beat on the town’s main thoroughfares, as well as to hire 10 new police officers by the end of the year.
“In December, as you know, we introduced our holiday walking program on Bergenline Avenue which was well received by shoppers, business owners, and most importantly our residents,” Rodriguez, standing with Commissioner Cosmo Cirillo, Margarita Guzman and a handful of police officers outside their headquarters for a press conference yesterday.
“Today, we are proud to announce the official launch of our townwide community policing, walking program. The walking program provides our community with a visible presence of police officers in the busy areas of town, becoming both a deterrent of crime and peace of mind for our residents.”
Rodriguez thanked Guzman for working with him to try and balance the budget to make way for new police recruits, as well as Cirillo for recommending which areas could use an increased police presence due to recreational activities enjoyed by the town’s youth.
During a question and answer session with the media, Rodriguez said that neither initiative will create any additional costs for the taxpayers, noting that hiring 10 new officers would bring the department up to 125 cops – a state recommended number that has not been hit since 2005.
“It was in 2005 actually that the department was at 129, we want to get to the point where we exceed that number,” Rodriguez told HCV.
After the presser concluded, the three commissioners and a handful of police officers, including Director Robert Antolos, walked and handed out fliers on Bergenline Avenue to let residents and business owners know about the expanded police walking program.
Rodriguez, who is heading the “New Beginnings West New York” slate with Cirillo, Guzman and first time candidates Yoleisy Yanez and Victor Barrera, made his announcement four days after Mayor Felix Roque said he plans on fundraising $500,000 to install a new surveillance camera system in town.
When asked what he thought about Rodriguez’s remarks, Roque said that while he still supports adding more officers to the department, he was annoyed that the challenger “is lying about my proven record.”
“Where was he and his family eight years ago when Mr. Sal Vega decided to raise taxes and fire police officers,” Roque said of his challenger.
Roque added that a cursory review of crime statistics provided by the New Jersey State Police show that violent crime is on the decline since he took office in 2011.
According to those stats, there were 185 violent crimes in West New in 2011, compared to 110 in 2018 (that figure doesn’t include December), while robberies and aggravated assaults are on a downward trend since 2015 (the year Roque was re-elected with his current challengers and Commissioner Susan Colacurcio).
He also cited hiring around 30 officers, acquiring new police vehicles and helping plan the annual National Night Out as a few example of how he has been committed to public safety in the past eight years.
Roque is seeking a third term on May 14h, leading the “Forward with Roque” ticket, that includes Colacurcio, Richard Acosta, Ana Luna and Board of Education Trustee Maite Fernandez.